Impacts of a new labor reality

Expansion of Industry 4.0 will create new demands for training in Brazil

Bárbara Malagoli“Industry 4.0” covers the gamut of technology innovations applied to manufacturing. It is believed that in the next few years this trend will contribute to establishing new business models, with smart factories based on the automation and digitalization of production processes and the use and analysis of large amounts of data (see report). Incorporating this concept into industrial processes in Brazil will require individuals to be trained with specific technical and interpersonal skills. Paying attention to the impacts of these changes may help give current and future professionals a head start on the demands of this new reality.

The Industry 4.0 concept started in Germany in 2011 as a government strategic initiative project to promote automation in manufacturing and to increase productivity on production lines. It is expected that the incorporation of this concept will result in gradually replacing manual and repetitive labor with automated labor. Machines will be outfitted with smart systems and sensors that will explain how they are to operate during each stage of the manufacturing process, and the sensors will transmit the data to units in companies for analysis.

“This will generate new demands for research and development, and it will provide opportunities for technically trained professionals who are able to work with different types of technologies,” says systems engineer Paulo Eigi Miyagi of the University of São Paulo Polytechnic School (Poli-USP). He explains that the new labor reality that is emerging with the development of Industry 4.0–or advanced manufacturing as it is known outside Germany–will require professionals to have a sense of urgency and flexibility, as well as the ability to develop innovative solutions from the convergence of various fields of knowledge.

Bárbara MalagoliMiyagi also says that specialized training will continue to be valued. Therefore, future professionals will have to be able to incorporate concepts from other fields into their professional activity. Moreover, as intelligent systems are installed in more and more machines, employees will be able to intervene remotely in production processes. “Industrial control systems will be decentralized so that it will be commonplace for a group of professionals to be in charge of the entire manufacturing process, and not just a specific part of the assembly line,” he says. This will trigger changes in the dynamics of labor. Miyagi believes that as movable systems access information on these processes, the trend will be to notify employees at any time and wherever they are so that they can monitor and modify the processes as needed, which will require them to be more flexible in terms of their working day.

According to mechanical engineer Marcosiris Amorim de Oliveira Pessoa, also of Poli-USP, the expansion of Industry 4.0 will have an impact on every field of knowledge. Therefore, engineering will be in the spotlight. A few universities are already working to overhaul their curricula. Poli-USP itself plans to establish a new program of study called complexity engineering to train professionals who are able to use multidisciplinary approaches to develop strategies to design products, production processes and innovation and research activities (see Pesquisa FAPESP Issue No. 253).

According to the report entitled Future of Jobs and Skills by the World Economic Forum, other fields are also destined to become more important in the coming years. One such field is data analysis, in which data analysts will help businesses evaluate the vast amount of information and thus offer management support for their business strategies. Robotics coordinators will be responsible for supervising the operation of robots and performing preventive maintenance on these machines. Moreover, sales representatives will be pushed to the forefront. “Since companies will be offering more specialized products and services, their professionals will have to be familiar with the technical and innovative nature of the products they will be selling,” says Clemente Hungria of AGR Consultores.

Bárbara MalagoliFor Miyagi, individuals concerned about preparing themselves for these and other new labor demands can look to academic training in the fields of mechatronic engineering and computer science, which address the theory and practice of operating basic systems in Industry 4.0. Students interested in technical studies can consider courses at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of São Paulo (IFSP) and the National Industrial Training Service (SENAI), which began offering these Industry 4.0 programs several years ago and are familiar with the subject.

Ideally, undergraduate students would look to institutions that, like IFSP and SENAI, have prior experience in fields associated with Industry 4.0. To find them, Pessoa cross-checked information on advanced manufacturing issues in scientific studies in the Scopus database using information from researchers and universities or research institutes with which they were associated. He found that the most highly recommended programs are mechatronic engineering at Poli-USP, production engineering at the Federal Technological University of Paraná (UTFPR), and technology for systems analysis and development at the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina (IFSC), to name a few. Students who are not admitted to any of these institutions can seek out others that are less traditional yet offer Industry 4.0 programs.

According to Miyagi, the impact of advanced manufacturing will also reach the humanities and thus pave the way for new fields of research that analyze the new social and labor relations. For Pessoa, it is important for students to identify the field that interests them most, and then delve further into the subject.